“Terry Kitties” is already a very good episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine long before Jason Mantzoukas busts out a late-in-the-game “Hang on, man”/”Hey Nong Man.” Consider that a bit of a disclaimer, because usually, a gem like that could instantly bump up an inferior episode of television. I don’t make the comedy nerd rules—I just enforce them. But even without a Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast throwback, “Terry Kitties” starts off strong and continues that way. The unstoppable duo of Terry and Jake, the give and take of Boyle and Gina, and the competitive nature of Rosa and Amy (and Holt) all make it so. Plus, the latest attempt to hide Melissa Fumero’s pregnancy is pretty fun (some would even call it “da bomb”), although a tank could possibly hide it even better.

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It’s a silly episode, but it’s also fast-paced in its silliness, which is key. At no point are any of the antics stretched out any further or longer than they need to be, a fact that is absolutely vital to the success of the Boyle/Pimento/Gina plot and is instantly apparent in the cold open. The jumps from Holt being in “vacation high” mode to dreams of tanks to Scully and Hitchcock immediately ruining everything are basically the pace of the episode as a whole. Terry and Jake’s plot then immediately continues that pacing by killing off seven of the eight possible witnesses for the the former’s cold case; Rosa and Amy continue that by literally turning police training into a race; and Boyle continues it by trying to get Adrian Pimento out of his space as soon as humanly possible.

Jake working with and trying to motivate a defeated, bullied Terry is also a much more interesting (and less frustrating) dynamic than Terry trying to rein an over-the-top Jake in, and that’s part of what makes the plot go by with the quickness. With the exception of the rats in the tag, Jake is completely in service of Terry and his feelings in this episode, and necessarily so. The B&E case isn’t world-changing, but the combination of Terry’s pain (which manifests itself in being so opposed to adorable cats that he calls them “dicks”) and Matt Besser’s antagonistic turn as the Six-Five’s Detective Holderton makes it fresh and fun. And even though Terry isn’t the one to really solve the case—Jake’s super detective skills strike again—the vindication he feels as a result of his correct initial hunch is worth it. Because even if his punishment and mocking is in the form of adorable kitties, it doesn’t make the pain he feels any less heart-breaking.

Okay, maybe it makes it a little less heart-breaking, but you get it. It’s the combination of that and “Flat-top Terry”s insistence that a cat was trained to perform the crimes of the “circus trash” perp that makes it just slightly less heart-breaking.

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In other plot news, with the exception of Boyle, the Brooklyn Nine-Nine characters are all definite alphas, and that’s a fact that’s integral to both Boyle’s plot and and the Amy/Rosa plot. For the latter, that turns itself into a competition to see who can defuse a bomb faster, which has no “real” reason to exist outside of the two’s inherent—very different—competitive nature and the aforementioned hiding of Melissa Fumero’s pregnancy. But from the very beginning, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has always been a series about elite, competitive detectives. (In fact, even with less of an edge, Boyle still fits into the elite aspect.) And part of what brings that all together is Captain Holt, who proves as much here with his trick to get Amy and Rosa to stop their competition so he can win. Then when the trio learns a lesson at the end, even that doesn’t really kill their competitive streaks and need to be the best.

Amy threatens to kill both Holt and Rosa, and that’s honestly how a plot on a network sitcom ends this week.

As for the Boyle plot, that allows Jason Mantzoukas’ Adrian Pimento to continue to make his rounds with the cast (first Jake, then Rosa and Terry) in his interactions with Boyle and Gina, and it also allows Boyle to play up both his most “Boyle-esque” qualities while also coming out on top, sort of. Sadly, this plot doesn’t include an ‘80s-style montage of Gina teaching Boyle how to be an alpha, but it does provide an excellent showcase for Joe Lo Truglio as Boyle reaches his lowest and most miserable point in this unfortunate situation. Boyle and Gina quickly formed one of the best dynamics (if not the best) of the series in season two, and this plot shows that they haven’t missed a beat together. Especially as Gina considers herself the hero of the piece, only for Boyle’s inherent beta-ness to be the driving force behind her mama wolf attack on Pimento.

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It’s a plot that could easily be a mess with too much of a focus on Pimento’s “craziness”—the one flashback to “night screams” is surprisingly the most it really shows, which is a good thing—but “Terry Kitties” makes a proper balance with it and really all of the episode’s plot.

Now for the “problems” with episode. Despite how good of an episode it is,“Terry Kitties” arguably suffers from what the rest of season three (post-Holt and Gina’s return to the Nine-Nine) suffers from: For a show that has made point of telling fascinating, larger stories while also being funny on a weekly basis, this season still doesn’t quite feel like it’s going anywhere. Season two was a season so much about Jake maturing as a person and even the characters maturing in their jobs that season three—while having some of those moments—feels developmentally-stunted. Holt is getting more in touch with his human emotions this season, which is a big deal, but at the same time, this is also the umpteenth episode to go with the “case from the past” plot, in this season alone, and everyone else appears to be in a funny holding pattern. Yet somehow, we’re already at the 19th episode of the season, so the show not yet feeling like it’s going anywhere is a bit frustrating. There’s definitely something off about that, no matter how enjoyable it all is. Kind of like Terry’s kitties themselves.

Stray observations

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: Terry vs. Kitties. I don’t care how it goes down, I just want it. He called them “dicks!”
  • Cold open Jake says “everyone gets a tank,” which essentially makes Brooklyn Nine-Nine an alternate universe prequel to this.
  • “Threadhead” and “stitchskipper” both sound terrible, for different reasons.
  • Terry: “Don’t call them cute. They’d kill us all if they were smart enough to use weapons. But they’re not smart, they’re dumb. They’re always nekkid and they pee in a box.”
  • Matt Besser needs to return to the show ASAP. He’s so smarmy here, and I want him to keep making pine cone “jokes.”
  • I’m honestly surprised the Six-Five didn’t start sending Terry chili after the second failed bust.
  • Now that Gina mentions it, Boyle’s spirit animal really is “a caterpillar that’s been stepped on.”
  • Jake: “There is so much crime in New York. No one should live here.”

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